1983: RCA PCD1-4917

  1. Here Comes the Rain Again
  2. Regrets
  3. Right by Your Side
  4. Cool Blue
  5. Who’s That Girl?
  6. The First Cut
  7. Aqua
  8. No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)
  9. Paint a Rumour
    Boxed Bonus Tracks:
  10. You Take Some Lentils and You Take Some Rice
  11. ABC (Freeform)
  12. Plus Something Else
  13. Paint a Rumour [Long Version]
  14. Who’s That Girl? [Live]
  15. Here Comes the Rain Again [Live]
  16. Fame

This was the first of their albums I bought, the one that opened the door to all the rest as it arrived, with Sweet Dreams finally reaching me after I’d been hearing “Sweet Dreams” and “Love Is a Stranger” for a year or two from odd sources (usually radio, though I cannot imagine which of my small hometown’s few stations would ever have played either of those songs back then). My junior/senior-high best friend John is the one who introduced me to Eurythmics, actually, or at least was the one who played me the first thing I knew to be theirs; he’d bought the 7" single of “Here Comes the Rain Again” and was playing it for me one day at his family’s house, and I said something like “well, that’s nice, but what’s on the other side of the 45?” And he said it was some weird song, and played it, and that was when I heard “Paint a Rumour” and I knew I was hearing something fantastic, something unlike anything I’d ever even imagined was out there, but something supremely musical, something that managed to be precise, fiery, vicious, mathematical, furiously raw, and deathly cool at the same time.

To this day, including the moment that I am writing this, 19 years later, I still rank “Paint a Rumour” as one of my absolute favorite recordings. It’s all those things, still, and it’s the first way I really heard Annie Lennox’s voice, shifting as it does there between icy, knowing understatement (“I could tell you something”), dangerously calculated soulful fury (the alarmingly sustained fourths on the manic “whoa, whoa, whoa” unravelling), and machine-gone-feral, almost-girl-group, mock-call-and-response chirps that act more as deranged threat than as filler (“promise not to sell”). I absolutely cannot imagine a video for that song, but of course I’m driven to distraction (when I think about it) to wonder what D&A would have done if they’d chosen to…and the same goes for the idea of live versions of the song. (And of course I prefer the 12" ending to the standard release, because that extra handful of robotic rhythms really seals the song for me.) And I still wish fervently that Dave & Annie would break into the “whoa, whoa, whoa” sequence in concert sometime.

When I finally managed to buy a copy of Touch, it was after this incident and that of visiting Seattle, where I saw a record store on the Ave (University Way) that had an extensive window display featuring the album’s brilliantly arresting cover. And, well, the rest is history…occasionally indulgent history, but history nonetheless. From this point on I knew I was witnessing the creation of excellence on a scale I had never before imagined possible. And they have rarely given me reason to think they aren’t cooking up more of that. It’s the kind of song I want to play for everyone I meet, so they can hear liquid magic in action….

As for the rest of the album, which after all precedes the one song that utterly seduced me, well, it’s fun. At the time I considered it very good, but the years since then have made me qualify my appreciation of Touch if only because the album’s cleanliness sounds almost sterile in retrospect, given all the other sounds that have been conveyed even by this group alone…its production is just too “clean,” even when Lennox is howling an arc of a note across a bitter musical landscape. That may well be due to an absence of a seriously beefy bass component (meaning the sonic range, not an instrument) as helped root and drive the oomph and grit found on the Sweet Dreams album. The songs themselves are generally top-notch and solid material, if inherently pop in many cases, and Dave & Annie have demonstrated that countless times in concert by turning the songs around and reinventing them independently of their original instrumentation and pace. I’ve always wished they had released “Cool Blue” as a single, but then at the time the remix possibilities weren’t up to the potential of the song itself, I suppose….

I have a hard time with the actual “hits” from Touch because, as with many Eurythmics albums, I prefer the rest of the tracks to the singles. “Here Comes the Rain Again” never really touched me, though I appreciate it as a song (and they’ve certainly recast it a few times, especially live, and in a lovely reduction for the “Lily Was Here” soundtrack). (Years after giving that track faint praise here, I will note that it presents an unusual sonic cocktail of musical eras simultaneously: ’80s synths, ’60s girl-group backup puffs, string-section seriousness that could be from the ’70s or much earlier, and uniting all of that a melodic spine and vocal that trascends them all and just IS in its own right. Also, my favorite moment of the song is probably missed by nearly every other listener: as the final/closing chorus part begins, just after Lennox’s climactic vocal climb, there’s a musical/sonic downpour for just a couple of seconds, part of it Lennox’s voice…a beautiful and subliminal touch, as is the subtle use and withdrawal of the sixteenth-note hammerings evoking relentless wind-driven raindrops.)

“Right By Your Side” was a strangely fun exception to many rules, and “Who’s That Girl?” was more fun from the context of its video than it was as the original recording (although drastic concert reworkings have made me rethink my stance on the song at least). But really the B-side of that album’s single is where the serious meat is. The seventh track, “Aqua,” is the kind of thing I wish musicians nowadays would concoct, and it just tastes better every time I listen to it; that quasi-tribal chant under what I guess must be considered the choruses is wondrously primal yet so artistic…the kind of thing that makes me wonder what Eurythmics could have concocted for a score of Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (which Dave Stewart noted was a film they would like to have scored).

[A parenthetical note on “Aqua:” In late 2018 I endured a tiresome podcast that was nominally but only fleetingly a review of this album, and the interviewer declared unequivocally that “Aqua” was about drug addiction; personally I’d never had that impression, and therefore I attribute the assessment to him being a former addict projecting his issues onto a passing vehicle, but then he may be right…perhaps it is drawn from Stewart’s drugging days. I doubt that, though, not least because the previous album’s “Jennifer” suggests that this really is an abstract depiction of a murder-by-injection drama. Who knows? Personally, I’ve always read the lyric as being along the lines of their previous album’s “Jennifer” and the delicious “Sweet Dreams” B-side “Baby’s Gone Blue”—a murder in which a drug was utilized, but I can see the addict perspective as being entirely possible.]

“No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)” is, however, just a little heavy-handedly tiresome if you’re not in a sympathetic mood. Although its lyrics share the frequent Eurythmics trait of being impressionistic and general rather than obvious and explicit (which, along with the usually gender-unspecific nature of pronouns, is an aspect that has long subliminally resonated with me), this track does suffer from being downright morose while lacking any specific target or source for that morosity. But I acknowledge that there are times when it’s “just what the doctor ordered” when you’re deep in a wallow, lamenting how hurtful and awful the world is. Also, that trait I mentioned is usually also present alongside a more frequent one, a hallmark really of Eurythmics songs, that of dark and light juxtaposed (often in flipped-from-expected perspectives); here, we get no light except in the fact that Lennox is singing at all.

But, to get back to “Paint a Rumour,” I want to note that it’s a mighty and dark counterpart to the album’s opener, “Here Comes the Rain Again, ” not in being lighter (quite the opposite) but by being machine-driven in sound rather than melodic, and that those two presentations come from the same duo on the same album is a great indicator of their duality of light/dark and range of passion. “Paint a Rumour” also introduces a fascinating touch, perhaps ironic on D&A’s part, of randomized electronic chirps—first as a sonic swipe for foreboding effect, in a flitting but unmissably disturbing moment in the second verse. That the track’s long playout devolves for a while into what sounds like a conversation between two computerized units gets its first hint there is just one reason I fell in love with this track right away.

“Promise not to sell….”